Garcia blanks Nats with guile and creativity


Freddy Garcia throws in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Thursday night. Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Quick question: would Bryce Harper have meant at least one more win to the Washington Nationals this week? It is probably something we can never know.

The Baltimore Orioles would probably prefer just to take the shutout and run, after last night’s gem by Freddy Garcia gave them a 3-1 win in the home-and-home series against the Nationals.

A more splendid pitching performance we have not seen all season from an Oriole. The 2-0 victory, in which Garcia blanked the Nats on three hits over eight innings, was his longest outing since Sept. 20, 2009. He retired 21 of the last 22 men he faced and threw 112 pitches, and Jim Johnson finished up with a spotless ninth to wrap the game in 2 hours, 21 minutes.

Garcia had a dipping, darting splitter working to perfection for him. He threw a first-pitch strike to an astounding 21 of the 27 batters he faced. It was the first time he has thrown eight shutout innings since he did it for the Chicago White Sox against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 19, 2006. He got defensive support in the form of a diving catch by Nick Markakis in the gap in right-center in the early innings and a play deep in the hole by J.J. Hardy to throw Ian Desmond out in the seventh inning.

He got offensive support – though at a premium due to an almost equally great pitching job by Washington’s Dan Haren – from a 3-hit performance by Nate McLouth, including two doubles, a run, and his league-leading, 17th steal. Manny Machado turned in a 2-for-3 night with an RBI double. Markakis had the Orioles’ other RBI, a 2-out double in the third inning.

But back to Garcia. His performance saved the bullpen for this weekend’s 3-game set against Detroit at Camden Yards. Miguel Gonzalez will face the 7-0 Max Scherzer tonight, and both will have their work cut out.

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera leads the league with a .369 average; the Orioles’ Chris Davis is second at .353; and Machado is third at .336. Machado shares the major-league lead in hits (with Cabrera) at 79 and leads the majors in doubles with 25. Davis’ 19 home runs lead the AL; Cabrera is second with 15. You want RBIs, we’ve got RBIs. Cabrera is the league leader with 59; Davis, second with 50.

But since the game has a funny way of giving you a pitchers’ duel the night after a spectacular home run parade, there is no guarantee of what to expect.

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